The career saves leader was watching when his fill-in gave up a three-run homer in the ninth inning of the Yankees’ extra-inning loss Monday night and had some thoughts. So the injured star sought out Soriano when he visited the clubhouse Tuesday afternoon and gave him some advice.
”`Why you got to throw too many sliders, when you got a good fastball?”’ Soriano said Rivera asked him. ”I said, `Forget about last night and let me do something different.”’
Soriano stuck to the new plan Tuesday and struck out two in the ninth, closing out a fine home start for Phil Hughes that sent New York to a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hughes (13-11) won his sixth consecutive decision at Yankee Stadium, allowing only Adeiny Hechavarria’s first major league homer in seven effective innings. Then he turned it over to David Robertson and Soriano to finish off the four-hitter.
Soriano was not available to reporters after he gave up the go-ahead homer Monday night to Colby Rasmus — on a slider. A day later, the reliever blamed the Yankees’ public relations staff for not telling him the media wanted to talk to him. But he was ready at his locker after notching his 34th save in 37 chances, one of his best outings this season.
”The best day I had all year,” Soriano said.
New York catcher Russell Martin said Soriano appeared to be pitching with ”a little anger. He took it out the right way.”
Nick Swisher had an RBI single in the third and Curtis Granderson hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth to help the Yankees to their fifth win in 12 games. They handed Ricky Romero (8-12) his 11th straight loss and beat him for the third time during his winless skid.
The left-hander has not won in 12 starts since June 22. The Blue Jays have provided little help, though, giving him just 17 runs of support in his past 10 starts.
”He was very sharp tonight,” Toronto manager John Farrell said. ”He was efficient and I think he benefited from a couple of extra days’ rest.”
Romero did rebound from a wild outing against Detroit in which he walked eight in 5 1/3 innings. This time he walked two and yielded five hits and two runs in seven innings.
”I’ve been working hard all week, the guys, everyone has kind of been helping me out through this,” Romero said. ”I’m just going to build off of this.”
With sluggers Mark Teixeira out after straining his left calf Monday and Alex Rodriguez sidelined since late July because of a broken hand, manager Joe Girardi put Yankees newcomer Steve Pearce in the No. 4 spot in the lineup because he has decent numbers against lefties. Pearce was acquired Monday from the Houston Astros for cash.
The designated hitter scored on Granderson’s sacrifice fly after he had walked, advanced on a wild pitch and went to third on a groundout by Martin, batting fifth despite a .196 average coming in.
Pearce and Martin went a combined 0 for 5 with two strikeouts. But Swisher had his 21st RBI in 20 games since moving into the second spot in New York’s lineup.
”We’re a little banged up,” Girardi said. ”No one’s going to feel sorry for us.”
The Blue Jays dropped to 12-26 since Jose Bautista first went on the disabled list July 17 because of a left wrist injury. The three-time All-Star was activated Friday but went back on the DL two games later with the same problem. He will have season-ending surgery next week to stabilize a tendon and is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.
Hechavarria cut it to 2-1 in the fifth with a high fly that landed several rows back in short right field. Yankees fans often throw home run balls back on the field but not this time. During warmups for the bottom half, Blue Jays right fielder Moises Sierra was talking to fans in the area where the ball cleared the fence.
Toronto had a chance in the sixth, when Hughes walked the first two batters. But he got Adam Lind to hit a soaring fly that landed in Swisher’s glove right in front of the 314-foot sign in the right-field corner. Robinson Cano then made a leaping grab of Yunel Escobar’s liner to second and threw to third to double up Rasmus.
”It’s an incredible play,” Girardi said. ”I thought he had no chance at third.”
NOTES: Hughes has lost his last five road starts and is 3-8 with a 5.03 ERA away from home. He is 10-3 with a 3.25 ERA at Yankee Stadium. … Rodriguez took batting practice on the field for the first time since his injury. He also ran the bases and fielded grounders. ”So far, so good,” A-Rod said. Girardi said the slugger will do the same Wednesday and then the team will discuss a plan, which could include one or two rehab games. … LHP Andy Pettitte (broken left ankle) threw on flat ground. Girardi hopes he’ll have a bullpen session this weekend. … Farrell said neither Henderson Alvarez nor Aaron Laffey would miss any time after being by batted balls Monday. Alvarez took a hard grounder off his left shin and Laffey was hit by a drive off his left calf. Both are day to day.